Eddie Ryan reports on a unique Five Nations Championships
In 1973, Ireland were involved in the one of the most amazing Five Nations Rugby Championships of all time. Unforeseen and unprecedented, the climax to the season produced a result which stands alone in the history of the championship.
Ireland, with the imperious Mike Gibson at inside-centre, were expected to make a bold bid for the title. Ireland could well have been defending champions but for the fact neither Wales nor Scotland travelled to Dublin the previous season.
This was due to the rising political tension in Northern Ireland, meaning that the Five Nations Championship was not completed for the first time since World War 11. Both Wales and Ireland had won their matches up to that point, and looked set to fight it out for title. The 1973 championship opener, between England and Wales, was expected to go the way of a very talented Welsh side.
The Welsh were along with Ireland tournament favourites, and boasted an all-star cast including JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, Phil Bennett, and Gareth Edwards. They duly lived up to their billing, dispatching the English at Cardiff Arms Park on a 25-9 score line.
Surprisingly the Welsh failed to build on that victory, on their visit to Murrayfield to take on Scotland.
The Scots were a solid if unspectacular outfit, and were not expected to contain the flair and fire of the Welsh dragons. The Scottish had other ideas however, edging a tense match 10-9. When Ireland downed England 18-9 at Lansdowne Road, it seemed the end of the road for the English. The French had started with a hard fought win over Scotland, and the English game seemed to provide them the ideal platform to make a real statement of intent.
The English faithful that packed into Twickenham, had come to witness the burial of their Five Nations aspirations. The English team had not bothered to read the script however, and rose from the ashes to stun “Les Bleus”, with a brace of tries from David Duckham.
Wales returned to form at home to Ireland, winning 16-12. A campaign which had started brightly, had very definitely gone off the rails for the visitors. This result meant all five teams were locked together on two points.